Man gets probation for falsifying documents to import leopard parts
BY DAVID HARPER World Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
A former president of the Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International was sentenced Wednesday to one year of probation and was ordered to pay $3,700 in financial penalties after pleading guilty in May to a federal charge of providing false information to import leopard parts from South Africa.
Michael John Mistelske, 64, admitted that on May 15, 2007, he falsely claimed he was applying to import a skin and skull from a leopard that he had hunted May 1, 2007.
According to a felony charge filed March 13, such leopards were listed as “threatened” under United States law and are covered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Parts of such species were not permitted to be imported to the United States unless accompanied by a valid import permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the charge says.
To obtain an import permit, a person was required to identify the date the leopard was “taken,” identify the quantity of leopards involved and acknowledge that the “imported sport-hunted trophy” was personally hunted by the applicant, according to the charge.
Mistelske, who has helped others go on international “big game” hunting trips, stated in his plea agreement that “I knew that the skin and skull were from two separate leopards” and that the skull came from a leopard killed in April 2006 by another person.
Court documents state that as a result of his representations, an import permit was issued and the leopard parts arrived at Mistelske’s residence in October 2007.
The charge says Mistelske was allowed to hunt and stay at an African ranch for a discounted rate in exchange for bringing business to the ranch.
U.S. Chief District Judge Gregory Frizzell said during Wednesday’s hearing that Mistelske could face up to five years in prison if his probation is revoked.
As a result of entering the plea, Mistelske is now prohibited from possessing firearms.
Gary Wood, Mistelske’s attorney, said Wednesday that his client has already cleared his home of firearms.